Question: How many book reviewers does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Six. One to change the bulb and another five to offer wildly different comments on how he does it.
An unfortunate truism about reviewers of books is that they all have opinions. And you know what they say about opinions: they’re like noses — everybody has one. That’s not the actual saying, but it’s close enough for a G-rated blog.
I’ve reviewed more than 150 books over the past two years alone, and one thing is for sure: there’s an awful lot of unrecognized talent out there.
So, what’s the difference between getting a glowing five-star review and a so-so three-star or (gasp!) the dreaded one-star drubbing?
Well, some of it admittedly lies with the sometimes whimsical tastes of the reviewer, and even, occasionally, what he or she might have had for lunch.
Getting a great review is four parts technique and one part sheer luck. Again, if you’re going to pique the interest of a reviewer with a full plate already, you’ll need to be creative as well as meticulous in your approach.
Whom should you ask for reviews?
For another perspective on getting reviews, check out this post by Nicola Jane.
And, finally, you should go for the gold by approaching several of Amazon’s Top Reviewers. A review from one of these folks can really look good on your book’s Amazon page.
One last thing. The jury is definitely out on asking friends, acquaintances and family members to weigh in on your work. I once had a Sunday School teacher of mine give a glowing review of my book — with only three stars. I thought I would throttle her the next time I saw her.
Speaking of bad reviews, here are a few tips from guest blogger Blake Atwood on what NOT to do when you get a bum review.
What about paid reviews?
We are mainly talking here about free reviews — the kind you sometimes have to wait months for. But what about paid reviews?
Once considered bad form, more and more authors are turning to giant Kirkus or other paid sites simply because a credible review from a third party — posted in your Editorial Reviews section — can grab the reader’s attention as she scrolls down from your book description to the section showcasing starred reviews.
Depending on your financial circumstances, it can be a good marketing investment for you and your work.
Five tips for getting a glowing free review for your book
However, we’re talking today about how to get a reviewer to post a free review for your book — hopefully, a positive one.
Here are five things that you, as an author, can do to significantly enhance your chances of success.
1. Write a killer query email
There’s an art to crafting a query email that will work for all potential reviewers, but they all boil down to some key strategies. You should:
- Read and obey the basic review criteria for each reviewer.
- Personalize your salutation.
- Include an ASIN number or Amazon URL. I like to check the “Look Inside” feature on the book’s product page before I agree to review it.
- Include both a word count and a page count; these are found in the book page’s fine print just below the description.
- Specify the genre and make sure the reviewer reads work in your genre. If you’re unsure of your genre, that’s also spelled out in the Amazon fine print.
- Craft a concise and compelling summary of your book’s contents. Don’t exaggerate and tell us it’s the “Must-Read Novel of the Summer” (I’ve actually gotten that one — turned him down flat).
2. Have a professional editor proofread your work
I can’t tell you how many otherwise stellar stories get downgraded or even rejected by poor punctuation, misplaced commas, and nonsensical sentence structure. Your Great Aunt Flo, who received her English degree back in 1956, might make a mean chocolate chip cookie. But she may not be the most impartial — or best — judge of your work.
3. Send it to the reviewer in the format he or she specifies
Most of us hate PDFs: they’re just unwieldy and don’t lend themselves to easy notation or bookmarking.
I personally prefer a .mobi file, so I can easily read it on my Kindle Fire. You can make one by going online and searching for “text to .mobi” conversion.
4. Check for typos
A few of these won’t kill your glowing review, but a number of them practically screams sloppy workmanship on your part as an author.
And, no, spell-check won’t catch the difference between their and they’re, for example.
5. Know why your book exists
A little extra effort on your part up front in knowing the purpose of your story can go a long way toward receiving praise for your hard work.
Some underlying, but often subtle, themes are a delight to read or infer, like the powerful bonds of friendship or the unyielding efforts of the protagonist to overcome inner demons.
Katniss Everdeen, for example, could have been a simple action heroine in a better-than-average dystopian thriller. But her multifaceted and conflicted character elevated the book far above others in its genre.
A protagonist, by the way, is generally the hero or main character in your book, in case you fell asleep during that portion of your freshman comp seminar.
There are more factors that can assure a good review, but they are chiefly inherent in the overarching quality of your storytelling. For example, no one wants to plow through one hundred pages of tedious character development before the first conflict or action.
Follow these five simple tenets and your chances for receiving a positive review should rise proportionately.
Have other tips for getting great reviews? Share them in the comments below.